Updated: Nov 17, 2019
Thursday was the first week of SoundUp's workshop series 'Opera-Tune Thoughts' at Belong Morris Feinnman care home. This week I was joined by three wonderful volunteers; pianist Celia and singers Caroline and Michael who are both playing lead roles in the RNCM's production of Gianni Schicchi in December. We had 21 participants who attended accompanied by 3 care staff from Belong.
The workshop was received very positively, and the response we got from many participants was brilliant. The group included both residents living with dementia and those who were not and for this reason I designed the workshop with the aim to appeal and engage all participants. I ran range of activities that explored different sensory and cognitive responses, this approach seemed to work well and feedback from Belong's Activities Coordinator was that this variation and range of creative tasks encouraged engagement and inclusion of all residents, something that has in past instances been difficult to achieve.
There were many lovely moments throughout the workshop, however a particular highlight for me was the Italian dancing activity, were all participants seemed to enjoy the opportunity to listen to live piano music, and be involved in the music making by playing hand percussion instruments. Some participants wanted to stand up and dance, which was encouraged by the volunteers and staff, however the entire group was able to be involved at their own ability level; be that singing along, playing percussion or dancing in their seat. A resident living with more advanced dementia was tapping her feet to the beat, this was a wonderful instance where I felt the whole group was connected, felt expressive and were able to communicate their enjoyment in their own way.
Before the workshop:
I held a training session for all the musicians who have volunteered to be involved as performers in the workshops. In this training we talked through the project, how it was conceived and how it will run. I created a specialised resource for the volunteers which outlined the project, raised their awareness of working with people with dementia and illustrated their safeguarding responsibilities.
As a dementia friends champion, I ran through some dementia friends awareness training with the volunteers to better prepare and manage their expectations of the sessions.
The volunteers were all really positive and looking forward to the workshops.
Workshop 1 outline:
1. Sensory Task
Close eyes your eyes we are going to Italy- what colours, tastes, noises, smells can you sense?
Word associations to Italy
Poem about Italy: 'Ode to Italy'
Look at pictures of Italy, Italian art from the 13th century, Florence
Taste florentine biscuits
2. Talk about the Opera
Brief outline of the opera with focus on main interest points: setting & themes
Title: Gianni Schicchi
Themes: family, trickery, disguise and ultimately love
Song: duet Rinuccio and Lauretta (Caroline, Michael)
4. Movement Activity
Italian dancing: piano solo of 'Tarantella Napolitana', use of hand percussion, singing and dancing
5. Q & A
Ask the singers questions about singing in Italian, and any other questions
Singers each demonstrated their favourite vocal warm up and the group copied this in call and response
Oh Mio Babbino Caro, one verse sung with simple English text, taught slowly phrase by phrase through call and response
During the session the participants seemed engaged and happy, and positively interacted in the workshop with enthusiasm. Feedback from care staff afterwards also matched this, and there was a lovely appreciation for the session from all participants and members of staff. What was noted as particularly successful was the integration of the independent residents with the residents living with dementia, which in the past has been difficult to achieve, hopefully the session was an opportunity to positively change attitudes and break down the stigma that can surround dementia.
The performing volunteers from the RNCM where absolutely wonderful, they brought so much to the workshop, and their performances clearly touched many of the participants.
The volunteer singers supplied feedback on how they thought the session went and their experience as a volunteer performer in the workshop; it was a bonus to see that their involvement was so positive, and that they would both definitely like to volunteer again.
Our second workshop will be held at Belong Morris Feinnman next Thursday; building upon from the themes we explored today with different volunteers and creative activities.